Traditional recipes

Octopus Salad

Octopus Salad

I want to share with you a very easy dish. In fact, it is almost a "non-recipe," as all you have to do is cut the ingredients and mix them together. Well, you may have to boil the octopus and potatoes, too, if you cannot find them ready. Enjoy!

See all salad recipes.


  • One 2-3 pound octopus, cleaned and head removed
  • 1 small potato (optional)
  • 5 green olives, chopped
  • 1/2 Tablespoon capers
  • 2 Tablespoons giardiniera (mixed pickled vegetables)
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped celery
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

    • 2 1/2 lb cleaned baby octopuses (see cooks' note, below), thawed if frozen
    • 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
    • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (preferably Sicilian)
    • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
    1. Rinse octopuses under cold water, then cover with water by 2 inches in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot. Bring to a boil with bay leaf, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until octopuses are tender (tentacles can easily be pierced with a fork), about 45 minutes.
    2. Transfer octopuses to a colander with tongs, then discard cooking liquid and bay leaf. When cool enough to handle, cut off and discard heads and halve octopuses lengthwise. Cool to room temperature.
    3. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, sea salt, pepper, and oregano. Toss octopuses with dressing and marinate, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes at room temperature.

    Have you ever eaten an octopus salad where the octopus was hard, fibrous, with still all the skin and connective tissue? You did not like it, did you? So here is how to cook an octopus in boiling water, making it soft and tasty, how to remove the skin and finally how to prepare an excellent octopus and potato salad Italian style.

    How to cook octopus so that it stays tender

    So here is the trick: dip the octopus in a large pot with plenty of cold water. Cover the pot with the lid and start the heat. Cook the octopus for 1 hour since the water start to boil. The common mistake is to remove the octopus from the pot immediately after 1 hour cooking. It’s absolutely necessary to let the octopus in its own water until it’s cooled to keep the octopus soft and tender.

    Now let’s start the step by step octopus and potato salad recipe.

    Dip the octopus in cold water (1), make it boil and cook slowly for about 1 hour (2). Mainwhile in another pot, cook the potatoes in boiling water for the necessary time, depending on their size and their quality (3).

    After the octopus is cooled in its own water (4), remove the skin with your hands. It is not necessary to completely remove the skin but only the skin of the head and the excess skin between the tentacles (5-6). Leaving a bit of skin makes the octopus tastier and more colorful.

    Place the octopus in a serving bowl and cut it into small pieces (7). Add the boiled potatoes cut into cubes and the lemon juice (8). Stirring, finally add salt and pepper to taste and plenty of extra virgin olive oil (9).

    If you like you can also add 1/2 cloves of garlic which must be removed before serving. Mix the octopus with potatoes very well and before serving, sprinkle it with freshly chopped parsley (10-11).

    Octopus Salad - Recipes

    Since most Puerto Ricans are Catholic and the fundamental teachings of the Church were, traditionally, not to be questioned but acted upon, one of the practices most conscientiously adhered to was the observance of Lent, known as Cuaresma or forty days. The peak of this rite was reached during Holy Week when virtually everything stopped and no work was performed. A blanket of pious solemnity would cover The Island, and most hearts and minds were preoccupied with prayers for miracles and the coming and passing of Christ.

    Countless tales of redeeming miracles for the true believer were told, and eerie tales of punishment for the transgressors abounded. One of my favorite warnings was, "Do not use the knife or it will turn to blood." I waited many disappointing years to see this metamorphosis! There were times when I was tempted to defy the warning, but I could never muster enough courage to go through with it.

    Out of fear and respect, most people abstained from using knives and sharp objects in their homes and at work. Slaughtering of livestock would cease and no meat would be prepared or served. It was during this time that the majority of Puerto Ricans turned to two other logical sources of food: fish from the sea and tubers from the land. The abundance of seafood on the coastal regions of The Island and the availability of springtime fruit and vegetables from the interior during Cuaresma provided kitchens with the natural ingredients that were needed to create flavorful and nutritional dishes that easily satisfied the most demanding and holy palate.

    Since most salads were destined to be served as main dinner courses, they needed to be hearty, diversified, and healthy, as well as have readily available and affordable ingredients. Refrigeration was limited, so preservation without contamination was an important factor when choosing fresh, raw food. Octopus (pulpo) and conch (carrucho) became the popular seafood choices. Both are inherently large, chewy, flavorful, and in abundance. with the proper preparation (boiling at high temperatures to kill toxins, and employing the enzymes contained in lemon, lime, and vinegar to cure the meat), and using the preservative properties of combined herbs and spices, the octopus and conch behave very well and can keep for an extended period of time. The longer the curing time (pickling), the softer and more flavorful the fish becomes while submerged in the marinade.

    Although one of the popular methods applied was the curing of the live octopus in a spiced rum marinade (see "Seafoods" chapter), I have introduced a more realistic and acceptable salad recipe for the contemporary palate, applying a fast-cooking method along with an on-the-spot marinade. Octopus and conch can be purchased at most fresh fish markets in the United States, especially in Latino or Asian communities. For marinated octopus or conch see the "Seafoods" chapter.

    To Prepare Octopus:
    • 2 pounds raw fresh octopus (large)
    • 4 quarts water
    • 2 teaspoons rock salt
    • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
    • 1 small lemon, cut in half
    • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
    • 2 whole bay leaves
    • 2 green onions rimmed to 5 inches whole
    The Salad:
    • 1/2 medium green bell pepper, diced
    • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced
    • 1 small red onion, diced
    • 4 garlic cloves peeled, minced
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
    • 1 teaspoon pulverized rock salt
    • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (1 teaspoon dried)
    • 1/3 cup pitted black olive
    • 1/3 cup capers
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
    • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
    • 4 lettuce leaves, washed and patted dry
    • 1 bunch of watercress, washed, with large stems removed
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

    Garnish: 4 thick slices of tomato, cut in halves, 4 lemon wedges, 4 lime wedges

    1. Rinse octopus thoroughly in warm running water for 1 minute. Then place in a stockpot with 2 to 3 quarts of water. Add whole rock salt, whole peppercorns, lemon, garlic, 2 bay leaves, and green onions.
    2. Place on high heat and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for approximately 1 hour or until octopus is tender. The octopus must be completely covered with water while cooking when water level diminishes, add more, otherwise the meat will not become tender.
    3. The cooking time will be affected by the size of the octopus. As you check for the water level, also check for tenderness of the meat by sticking a fork through the fattest part of the tentacles. The fork should go through without effort when the meat is done and ready to be taken out.
    4. Once done, transfer octopus to a colander and place under cold running water. Slide your hand up and down the tentacles so as to remove the top layer of the slippery tissues. The octopus head has an inner lining turn the head inside out and remove the tissue.
    5. To make the salad, dice the octopus into pieces approximately l/4-inch thick. Using a glass salad bowl (wood or metal will adversely alter the taste), combine octopus meat, diced green and red peppers, red onion, minced garlic, ground black peppercorns, pulverized salt, oregano, olives, capers, olive oil, lime juice, red wine vinegar, and 3 bay leaves. Toss vigorously, then cover and store at room temperature (but away from direct heat) for at least 1 hour.
    6. To serve: layer individual salad plates with green lettuce leaves and a bed of watercress. Using a slotted spoon, scoop a mound of octopus salad onto the plate, then sprinkle chopped cilantro on the top.

    Serving Suggestions:
    For a complete lunch or dinner on a hot summer day, serve with White Rice, red beans and boiled plantain, or Yellow Rice, black beans, and Marinated Yuca, or Breadfruit Tostones on the side.

    Variations: For Conch Salad, substitute octopus with 2 pounds of conch meat. Using a sharp knife, cut into thin fillets then use a meat mallet to pound both sides of the fillets to tenderize the conch. Follow the Octopus Salad recipe instructions for boiling, then coarsely chop the conch meat and follow the octopus salad directions for mixing.

    Recipes From La Isla

    Recipe from:
    La Isla
    New & Traditional Puerto Rican Cuisine
    by Robert Rosado & Judith Healy Rosado
    $28.00 (Hardcover)
    Lowell House
    Released 1995
    ISBN: 1-565-65-339-4
    (Reprinted with permission.)

    This Archived Page created between 1994 and 2001. Modified August 2007

    Octopus Salad

    Cooked low and slow, tender octopus tentacles are the star of this hearty salad.



    Skill level


    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 sprig rosemary
    • 1 sprig thyme
    • 1 lemon, sliced
    • 400 g (14 oz) octopus tentacles, tenderised
    • 65 g (2 oz/ ⅓ cup) toasted buckwheat
    • 40 g (1 ½ oz/ ⅓ cup) cooked quinoa
    • 1 tbsp currants
    • 1 tbsp finely diced fennel
    • 2 radishes, finely sliced
    • ½cup mint leaves
    • 1 tsp pomegranate seeds
    • 4 tbsp olive oil
    • finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon
    • 200 g (7 oz) haloumi, diced

    Cook's notes

    Oven temperatures are for conventional if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


    To cook the octopus, place 2 litres (2 quarts/8 cups) water in a large saucepan. Add salt, fennel seeds, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme and lemon. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes.

    Add the octopus and simmer for 40–50 minutes, until tender. Remove from pan and set aside to rest. In a mixing bowl, combine the buckwheat, quinoa, currants, fennel, radishes, mint, pomegranate, 3 tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest and juice.

    Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook haloumi for 2–3 minutes, stirring and turning occasionally, until golden brown. While still warm add to the salad and toss well. Arrange the salad on a large board and top with the octopus tentacles.

    • To tenderise the octopus, beat with a meat mallet or rolling pin for 15 minutes.

    Polpo Octopus Salad

    Polpo salad is a common appetizer served in Palermo. The best polpo salad is found in small trattorie, where the octopus is simply dressed in garlic, parsley, olive oil, lemon and a small stalk of celery for flavor. In fancy restaurants, the polpo salad is served with exotic spices, mayonnaise, senape, the mustard, and they place it on top of crackers, in a large and beautiful dish decorated with thick balsamic vinegar and although the presentation is an exceptional masterpiece of modern design, the taste of the octopus gets lost among the various flavorful condiments.

    At Joe’s on Avenue U, our family’s Sicilian eatery, prepared and served a lot of polpo everyday: we gave large portions of polpo freshly dressed in garlic, parsley, olive oil, lemon and garnished with a few pieces of celery with the polpo, we served to our customers some fragrant and spongy Sicilian style bread and a lettuce salad to complete a fulfilling and outstanding lunch.

    How to clean an octopus

    If you’re lucky enough to be in a place where you can find a good and fresh one, the first thing you want to take care of is cleaning it.

    We cannot lie: cleaning the octopus is one of the most disgusting things one can do in the kitchen. One of our first experiences in cleaning a “devilfish” has been memorable: we were removing the inside, and we found the fishes he did eat before being killed. Is this a good memory? Well, we don’t know, but for us, it has been pretty remarkable and somehow disgusting.

    We haven’t stopped loving the octopus, and this is our advice on how to clean it.

    • Wash and clean your octopus
    • Remove the ink sac and internal organs by cutting the beak with a knife.
    • Pull away the beak and the organs
    • Quickly rinse it under running water.

    A fresh fish needs to be tenderized to soften the meat and then the eyes you can slam it on the work surface before cleaning it.

    Recipe Summary

    • 1 onion, halved
    • 1 carrot, chopped
    • 1 celery rib, chopped
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 1/2 pounds octopus tentacles, separated
    • 1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
    • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper

    Fill a large saucepan with water, add the onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Add the octopus and simmer over moderate heat for 1 hour, until tender. Let the octopus cool in the liquid, then drain. Using a paper towel, wipe the purple skin off the tentacles, leaving the suckers intact. Cut the tentacles into 1-inch pieces.

    Meanwhile, in a saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the green beans until tender, 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to a plate and pat dry. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until tender, 25 minutes. Let cool slightly, then peel and dice the potatoes.

    In a large bowl, combine the octopus with the potatoes, green beans, garlic, parsley and olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.


    Cook frozen octopus (defrosted is always softer, if it is fresh you have to beat it with piston so it would not be hard) in a mixture of water with little vinegar, around 40-60minutes (depending on the size of octopus). Be careful, do not overcook it, but still do not leave it too hard. Do not salt the water, and try to put one cork in water (to cook octopus faster). When the octopus is cooked, rinse the octopus with cold water. Tentacles and head of octopus cut into rings (half of centimeter thick), mix with chopped onion and garlic, put salt and paper to taste. If you like add capers, olives and olive oil.
    Before serving chill it for few hours in the refrigerator then spice it with fresh lemon juice. Mix it all together and serve on lettuce leaf with a slice of lemon.

    Active time: 1:15h
    Total time: (with cooling) 2-3h

    • 1kg octopus
    • 0.5dl fresh lemon juice
    • 15dkg onion
    • 1-2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
    • 1dl olive oil
    • few capers
    • 300gr tomatoes
    • few green and few black olives
    • salt
    • paper
    • punch of parsley
    • 0.5dl vinegar

    Octopus Salad - Recipes

    Octopus Salad

    In Croatia, especially in Dalmatia region, octopus plays the main role in many healthy and tasty dishes like octopus under the lid, baked octopus with vegetables and various salads. Octopus salad is definitely a must-try dish when in Croatia accompanied by a delicious glass of local wine.

    When cooking octopus, the most important thing is to prepare it in a way that it becomes tender. Well, there are several ways to do that. Fisherman used to beat the octopus vigorously against the rocks, then dip it several times into boiling water, then they would proceed with cooking under the lid or some other way. Read our additional tips on how to prepare a super tender octopus meat.


    • 2 kg octopus
    • 15 – 20 cherry tomatoes
    • 15 – 20 black olives
    • extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 lemon
    • 5 g parsley
    • Salt
    • Pepper


    1. Put the octopus in a boiling water and cook for about an hour on low heat and put the lid on.
    2. When the octopus is ready, put it under the cold running water for a few minutes and cut it into small pieces.
    3. Out it in a bowl and mix with previously chopped tomatoes and olives in half, or as you prefer.
    4. Season with chopped parsley, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and parsley. You can serve it immediately or you can put it in the fridge for an hour if you prefer it cold.

    Additional tips

    • If you buy fresh octopus, freeze it before cooking as it will be much more tender.
    • Temper the octopus with salt before the end of cooking so it won’t harden.
    • It is always better to buy two smaller octopus (500 g each) than one bigger, as it will become tender faster.
    • If you buy a fresh octopus and you want to freeze it, remember to remove the innards, tooth, and the eyes before freezing it.

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